Thursday, December 18, 2008

Exclusive : Meanwhile Over at Labour HQ…

Tomorrow morning Derek Draper is convening a “New Media Breakfast” meeting with dozens of Labour bloggers and New Media types to hear from Blue State Digital how Labour can use the internet to win the next election. Blue State Digital are the people that did Obama’s online stuff – rather well. So far Draper’s online efforts haven’t really got anywhere, one of the issues that Labour has is that it does not know what it wants to achieve. Blue State Digital have brought over Thomas Gensemer and Joe Rospars, Barack Obama’s former new media campaign director to basically pitch their services and know-how to the Draper assembled collection of lobbyists, spin-merchants and public affairs leeches* that by and large constitute the Labour blogosphere. Blue State Digital have hired Matthew Macgregor to run a soon to be opened London office. Macgregor worked on Ken Livingstone’s 2008 Mayoral campaign, for War on Want, TULO and Jon Cruddas’ deputy leadership campaign. This is their big sales pitch.

Guido called Draper to wish him luck with the meeting, he cursed Guido’s foreknowledge. Draper denied point blank that he was looking for funding for an Iain Dale style, party-supportive blog with titbits of insider news and his spin on the party line. He has been reportedly moaning that he has been working voluntarily for free for the Party and that if they want to take the fight online they will need a full time paid blogger – what he doesn’t say openly is that it should be him. Sources say that the blog is to be known as the “Daily Draper”.

Hopefully Draper’s blog will be more prescient than his writing for the Guardian. In September 2007 he told us – “Get ready for a short, sharp campaign. Gordon Brown is not a ditherer, and I predict he will announce the election very soon. Today he says the opposite the Tories are doing what they can to promote the idea that there might be an early election, before rubbishing the idea. Does that mean there will be an early election?

“Go 4th” was one working title for a Labour supporting rival to ConservativeHome, LabourList is another name being knocked about. Draper claims he hasn’t finalised the plan and it is still at the talking shop stage. Rumour has it that Mandelson (an Iain Dale fan) is being supportive.

Guido has a suggestion for Derek and the embryonic Labour online-spin crew: find a charismatic, young new leader who can be the change that we need. It won’t matter how good the website is until you do…

*Invitation list to Labour’s digerati: Tom Watson (Guido passim), Colin Byrne (CEO, Weber Shandwick), Sadie Smith (ex-Westmonster), Mark Hanson (spinner), Simon Buckby (Popbitch’s spinner boyfriend), David Clark, Charlie Whelan (Unite, former Gordon bruiser), Chuka Umunna, Sue Macmillan, DJ Collins (Google spinner), Sarah Mulholland, Richard Angell, Ed Owen, Simon Alcock, Wee Dougie Alexander, Patrick Diamond, Sunder Katwala (Fabians), Gavin Hayes (Compass), Jessica Asato, Robert Philpot, Richard Huntington, Tristram Hunt, Ben Wegg-Prosser (Mandy’s protege), Damian McBride (Downing Street spinner for Gordon), Andrew Dodgshon, Theo Blackwell, Tom Miller, Tim Allan (Portland CEO), David Bradshaw, Stuart Bruce (Alan Johnson’s leadership spinner, Labour new media guru), Jag Singh (LabourHome and Hilary online campaign guru), Matt Strong, Paul Simpson, Spencer Livermore (ex Gordon spinner), Ed Owen, Chris McShane, Matthew Taylor (RSA boss, ex-Blair policy unit), Alex Finnegan, John Miles, Adam Dustagheer, Dan Thain (Labour HQ), Mark Lucas (Silverfish), Luke Pollard, James Crabtree, Tim Shand, Alex Hilton (LabourHome), Simon Redfern, William Davies, Howard Dawber, Nick Anstead, Richard Lane, Jon Steinberg, Pete Bowyer, Steve Cowan, Hopi Sen, Luke Bozier, Andy Regan, Toby Flux, David Taylor, Chris McShane, Matthew McGregor, Noel Hatch, Sunny Hundal (the supposedly independent Liberal Conspiracy), Greg Jackson, Dave Prescott (son of), Luke Akehurst (spinner Weber Shandwick), Phil Dilks, Jonathan Upton, Simon Fletcher, Tom Price, John Stolliday, Adrian McMenamin (CBI & HateMyTory.com), Paul Hilder, Paul Miller, Ben Brandzel, Anthony Painter, Ravi Gurumurthy.

The Economics of Blog Comments

Guido is winding down for Christmas and mulling over whether that means he has to put comment moderation on over the holidays or just let anarchy prevail. This graph from this article on the economics of blog comments is thought provoking:

Iain Dale has had enough of window-lickers in his comments and introduced registration, he told Guido he realised he had to when he himself was no longer interested in reading the blog comments. Guido cops a lot of criticism for his laissez faire attitude towards the comments. In some ways it is easier for Guido to take this attitude, it is not as if there is any likelihood of him running for elected office or making a job application where the comments can be held against him.

Anne Spackman of The Times told a seminar organised by the Goldsmith University Media Research Centre that pre-moderation of comments costs The Times six-figures to do. Emily Bell from the Guardian made a similar point, it is expensive to moderate comments. It is certainly expensive in time, every morning Guido deletes a load of comments which have, in his rather arbitrary judgement, just gone too far.

Picture credit : GQ
Some bloggers get very worked up about online comments because they are so often rude and abusive. This blog, in contrast to say the Guardian’s Comment is Free, takes a sticks and stones view to a large extent, particularly with regard to prominent public figures. It is actually pleasing that Ed Balls gets angry about the abuse dished out here, that Hazel Blears loathes the co-conspirators, that self-important politicians hate it so much, that thin-skinned journalists don’t like a taste of their own medicine. The comments and the blog itself perform the role of a cyber stocks, you can say almost whatever you like about leading political figures and it will go unchecked, however say something gynaecological about a lowly intern, it is likely to get deleted (if it is noticed).

Originally when this blog started and had readers numbering only in the tens, rather than the tens of thousands, some of the regular comment makers were very witty and brought gossip. In the last four years 200,000 comments have been made, the signal to noise ratio and average quality of the comments has declined. That is an inevitable consequence of having among the tens of thousands of readers a number of moronic, window licking, certifiable loonies. Mostly it is people just venting about their bugbears and commenting on the character of Geoff Hoon, with a few gems to be found. Guido has no problem with swearing at politicians. That has its place, and that place is for better or worse here.

Things will be changing in the New Year, you will still be able to say what you like (within somewhat arbitrary inconsistent limits) without pre-moderation or registering. However there will be incentives for those who produce better quality commentary based on a new element of co-conspirator community rating. Good comments will be more prominently displayed, disliked comments will be less prominent. The biggest innovation is that it will be possible for readers to set their own tolerance thresholds. Poorly rated comments will be invisible to those who set their preferences accordingly. If you only want to see comments judged by co-conspirators to be witty, amusing or illuminating, set your threshold to “Recommended”. Don’t want to read foul language? Set your threshold to “U”. Want to see all and any comments no matter how foul? Set your threshold to “XXX”. If your commentary is consistently recommended your comments will automatically be more prominent in the future and may even get highlighted on the frontpage. Will it work? That is up to you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fred Explains Bailout Economics

As it is in the U.S. of A. so it is in the U.K., borrowing is how Gordon will save the economy. Our children will be truly in Gordon’s debt.

PMQs Live Chat – Harman, Hague and Cable

In His Mind Brown Solved the Housing Bubble Crisis in 2005

Alex Barker in the FT yesterday drew our attention to Gordon’s hubristic 2005 speech to the Labour Party conference where he claimed to dealt with the house price bubble:

Why has it been that at every point since 1997 faced with the Asian crisis, the IT collapse, a stock exchange crash, an American recession, last year a house price bubble, this year rising world oil prices, why has it been that at every point since 1997 Britain uniquely has continued to grow?

In any other decade, a house price bubble would have pushed Britain from boom to bust….

I tell you, it is because with Bank of England independence, cutting debt, fiscal discipline and the New Deal this Labour government has shown the strength to take the tough long-term decisions, that inflation is low, interest rates are low, growth has been sustained in every year, and we are closer than ever to the goal which drives us forward: the goal of full employment for our generation.

Labour, the natural party for economic strength in our country today.

The hubris and the lies – fiscal discipline is a joke, Gordon has presided over fiscal incontinence on an unprecedented scale, the too low interest rates because he excluded house prices from inflation targeting will prove to have been the key determinant of Gordon’s bubble. Inflation was not so low if you included house prices. Gordon can’t blame that on anyone else, it wasn’t an American finance minister who made that policy choice…

UPDATE : Unemployment is now higher than when Labour came into office. It is a fact that unemployment has always ended up higher when Labour is voted out than when it is voted in. Just as every Labour government has ended in financial crisis.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Very Civil Disobedience

Guido called up Fishburn Hedges, the BBC’s Telly Tax PR firm.

GF : “I have a confession to make”
FH : “Errr”
GF : “Haven’t paid for a TV licence in 10 years.”
FH : “Oh.”

They weren’t too keen on taking a confession and suggested Guido called the BBC press office.

GF : “Have a confession to make”
PO : “Ha ha”
GF : “Haven’t paid for a TV licence in 10 years.”
PO : “Ahh”
GF : “Charles Moore is my leader.”
PO : “Can we call you back”
GF : “I’ll come quietly. Non-violently, like Gandhi.”
PO : “What is your number?”
GF : “Now I have confessed can you stop sending letters?”

Confess your crime to the TV Licence press office on 020 7544 3144.

Another Etonian Prime Minister

Eton, Oxford, Premiership – a path trodden by a fortysomething posh, always smiling politician called Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The new Thai premier’s background will not have gone down well in some quarters.

Just as well he didn’t want the Speaker’s job or he would have to contend with David Davis.

Darling Lets the Cat Out of the Bag

Tessa Jowell went wildly off message yesterday and said that Britain is facing a recession “deeper than any that we have known”. Another significant admission from Chancellor Darling suggests we are perhaps not best placed to weather the global financial turbulence: “We are going to be affected more substantially in relation to the loss of revenues that we are now experiencing because of the lack of profitability in the financial services sector. London is the major financial services sector in the world… Of course we are more likely to be more severely affected as a result [of] profitability being reduced… We are also affected by the downturn in the housing market because of reduced revenues in relation to stamp duty”.

He might also have added that because we are so over-indebted, it will be that much more difficult to recover economic growth.Via Paul Waugh

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tories Should Join the Pan-European Libertas Ticket

The Tories have been unsuccessfully trying to extricate themselves from the Federalist EPP by setting up a new group. This failure means that the only firm promise Cameron has given – to exit the group within months of him becoming leader, has been broken. Not a good omen.

Declan Garney, who successfully led the Irish anti-Lisbon Treaty No campaign*, has announced that his Libertas will contest the European elections in 2009 on a pan-European basis.

He has opened a European HQ in Brussels, and announced that Libertas will field candidates across the European Union on a common pro-European platform of democracy, accountability and transparency. “If people want a strong and healthy Europe that is democratic and answerable to them, they should vote for a Libertas candidate. If they do not want Europe to succeed or if they are happy with the current undemocratic practises, then they should vote for an incumbent party. For those who weren’t given a vote on the Lisbon Treaty, this will be their referendum”.

Libertas intends to run candidates in every country where the candidates are of a high standard, committed to the Libertas’s pro-European stance and its platform of democracy, accountability and transparency aimed at bring European back to the people.

That platform is entirely compatible with the Conservative Party position on Europe. The Tories should seize the opportunity to stand next summer on a pan-European platform which they support, rather than under a false Federalist flag.

There are no doubt practical difficulties, they are not insurmountable, Libertas in alliance with the British Tories would be a significant signal that there is a mainstream, non-headbanging alternative to the Federalist groups which dominate European politics and fail the people of Europe. The existing Tory leadership in Brussels is second rate, has gone native to the extent that they are lucky not to be facing criminal corruption charges. A new leadership is needed to break out of their historic errors.

Dan Hannan is moving his family to Brussels on a permanent basis, if he focused his energetic abilities on the parliament he would make an excellent leader, with Thatcherite determination to put the national interest first. The existing leadership is just not ideologically fit for purpose.

*Ganley says of the new moves to re-run the referendum: “The Irish government and the powerful elite in Brussels are showing utter contempt for the democratic decision of the Irish people in rejecting the Lisbon Treaty. Not one sentence will change in a “new version”. Some non-legally binding texts will be added in an attempt to fool the people. They tried this with the French, they tried with the Dutch, they are trying with the Irish. It’s time to put a stop to this bullying.”

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View


Seen Elsewhere

5 Things We Learned From Guido’s Party | GQ
Revealed: Guido Fawkes Anniversary Dinner Guestlist | Peter Oborne
More Owen Jones Errors | Michael Ezra
Why Should Men Get Equal Maternity Leave? | Laura Keynes
Dentists Have Last Laugh Over Sneering Keynes | FT
Why’s Clegg Giving Men Paternity Leave? | Conservative Women
Cam Cannot Stem EU Immigration | David Keighley
9 Mansion Tax Questions for Ed Balls | TPA
Politicians are Lying to You About Immigration | Alex Wickham
Give Journalists Public Interest Defence in Law | Guardian
Cameron is Going to Have to Deal With UKIP | Dan Hodges


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Chris Bryant talks to the Times Diary about a famous gay actor:

“I don’t think I’ve had sex with him. He says we had sex in Clapham. I’m fairly certain I’ve never had sex south of the river”



Progressive Inclusion Champion says:

Great to hear Carswell call for inclusive policies and that UKIP must stand for first and second generation immigrants as much as the English.


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